Or more accurately – how FAST you can recover? There’s a period immediately after a training session where our fitness actually goes backwards. Try running a 3km time trial, then running another one 10 minutes later. You’re going to be slower. You didn’t get fitter from doing the run. You get fitter from how your body adapts to the run. The same goes for lifting weights; you don’t get stronger immediately after lifting. You get stronger when your body has time to adapt to the stimulus of lifting. Your body repairs the damaged tissues, lays down extra muscle and/or improves the ability of the brain to co-ordinate the muscles.
The faster we can recover, the sooner we can train again. When we think of recovery, we can think of big rocks and small rocks. Big rocks being the most important and small rocks as being helpful. Big rocks; #1 Sleep: Sleep lays the foundation for everything. Sleep regulates your hormones and it allows the for the greatest process of healing and growth. The amount and quality of sleep you get is essential to speeding up the recovery process. Sleeping more is simple – give yourself more time in bed. Improving sleep quality takes a little more work but here’s some ideas: make sure the room is dark, quiet and cool. Go to bed and wake up at similar times every day. Have a pre-sleep routine – something that helps you wind down before bed. Get enough exercise during the day i.e. 30 minutes or 10,000 steps at a bare minimum. #2 Nutrition: If we’re not fuelling ourselves with the right food, then the recovery process will slow down. We need to give our muscles the right amount of raw materials to heal and grow. This means meeting our energy demands (carbs and fats) as well as providing enough protein for re-building our muscle tissue. We also need to meet our micronutrient (vitamins and minerals) needs to make sure all the processes in the body are running smoothly. Read our ‘eat real foods’ post from Saturday for more information here.
Small rocks; #3 Soft tissue work: This refers to any ‘body-work’ that you feel might help you. Examples of this may be foam rolling, lacrosse ball work, massage etc. Generally the idea behind this is to help increase blood flow to the ‘tight’ area and help loosen everything up. I generally like to do this just before bed or immediately after waking up, but this could be done at any point during the day. Spend as much time as necessary massaging these areas until you feel like the area feels better.
#4 Hot / cold therapy: Ice baths, ocean swims, sauna’s, hot tubs, contrast showers and the like can all be effective ways of helping you feel better and speeding up the recovery process. I like ice baths or cold plunges the day of/day following competition and heat related activities as the week progresses. If you aren’t competing and are just looking to improve recovery from your training sessions than any of these will be better than none. Ice baths generally take around 5-10 minutes, ocean swims or cold plunges 10-15, sauna’s can be up around 20-30 and contrast therapy generally works with a 1:1 or 1:2 cold to hot ratio i.e. 30 sec cold shower 60 sec hot shower x 8
#5 Light aerobic activity: One of the best ways to decrease muscle soreness and feel more alert is through some light cardio. I prefer non-weight bearing activities like the assault bike, rower or swimming. But long-distance walks and slow runs can also be helpful. The idea behind it is that you can extra ‘oxygen-rich’ blood to the damaged muscle and you filter out some of the negative by-products that are contributing to the soreness and dysfunction. 15-30 minutes of activity where you break a light sweat seems to work well. Remember the aim of this session is recovery so don’t treat it like a conditioning session. Don’t worry about the fancy compression pants or ‘recovery drink’ until you’ve nailed your big rocks. #one22 #recovery